Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Veronica

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Veronica

by Mary Gaitskill

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 288 pages

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Mary Gaitskill is the author of 3 books, and many short stories and essays (see below for details).  She was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1954, attended the University of Michigan (where she became a born-again Christian at age 21, but lapsed six-months later), and has lived in Toronto, San Francisco and Marin County, California.  She married writer Peter Trachtenberg in 2001 and currently lives in New York.

She first tried to get her work published when she was 23, but it was not until over a decade later in 1988 that she succeeded with the  short story collection, Bad Behavior.

Her fiction typically focuses on female characters coping with inner conflicts, often hitting on "taboo" subjects such as addiction, sado-masochism and prostitution (in her non-fiction she has written of her own rape - Harper's, "On Not Being a Victim" - and of working as both a stripper and a call girl).

Her stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she teaches creative writing at Syracuse University and lives in New York.

Partial Bibliography

Bad Behavior (1988): The movie, Secretary (2002) is based on the short story of the same name in Bad Behavior, but the screen and book versions have little in common.  Gaitskill characterized the film as "the Pretty Woman version, heavy on the charm (and a little too nice)"

Two Girls, Fat and Thin (1991). Follows the  lives of Justine Shade (thin) and Dorothy Never (fat). Justine works through her sadomasochistic issues while Dorothy works through her up-and-down commitment to the philosophy of "Definitism". 

Because They Wanted To
(collection): Nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1998.

Veronica (2005) was a National Book Award nominee, as well as a National Book Critics Circle finalist for 2005. In a 1994 interview, Gaitskill mentioned she was working on the novel that became Veronica, but she later put it aside, only returning to it in 2001.

This article was originally published in November 2005, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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